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NBA makes an exception for Yao

THE NBA has granted an injury exception for Yao Ming.

The Houston Rockets had applied for a disabled player exception a week ago as his hairline fracture had yet to heal.

The NBA approved the request, freeing about US$5.7 million that the Rockets used to sign free agent Trevor Ariza from the Los Angeles Lakers. NBA general manager Daryl Morey said the league's approval for the exemption does not rule out Yao's return this season.

The Xinmin Evening News reported yesterday that Yao had decided to have a surgery. However, any surgery could be risky with a 20 to 30 percent chance that it could potentially end his career.

In a statement released by his agent on Wednesday, Yao said he was "optimistic about the future" and that he would "return to playing basketball when my foot has fully healed."

"My focus is on selecting the best treatment option for my injured foot and committing myself to do what I can to ensure a complete recovery."

Yao broke his foot in a second-round playoff game against the Lakers on May 8. He was fitted for a boot that immobilized his foot and the team initially said he would miss 8-12 weeks.

The Rockets said less than two months later that tests showed Yao's foot had not healed and he was out indefinitely. The team doctor said later that the injury could potentially end his career.

Houston would mostly likely acquire a center to replace Yao through a trade this summer.

"The Rockets have kept me informed of what they are doing and why. I support them in their efforts to make our team as good as possible," Yao said in his statement.

Yao played in 77 regular-season games in 2008-09, his most durable year since 2004-05, when he played in 80. In between, Yao missed chunks of three seasons with leg and foot injuries.

Meanwhile, Yao has no plans to buy his former team, the Shanghai Sharks, as reported earlier. However, Team Yao, his management team, is working with the Sharks to find buyers and drag the Chinese Basketball Association outfit out of the financial quagmire.

Yao played for the Sharks for nine-straight years since the age of 13.

The Shanghai native cannot afford to buy the team with his personal income alone, according to Oriental Morning Post.

The Sharks have lost 96 million yuan (US$14 million) in the last 10 years, club manager Zhang Zhengming told the Post.

Title sponsor Xiyang Group also shunned the side after a miserable season last year when the former champions could muster only six wins and lost 43 matches.

The Sharks are now owned by Shanghai Media Group, Shanghai Sports technical Institute and Hongqiao Airport. SMG is currently the largest shareholder of the club. All the three companies are owned by the state.

Several companies have been cited as potential new owners of the Sharks. According to Xinhua news agency, Baoshan Iron and Steel Co. and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank are leading the race.

A company introduced by Team Yao is also among the bidders.


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